Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club
Yeah, I went toe-to-toe with the 37th best public golf course in the country (according to Golf Digest), and to nobody's surprise, the treacherous track came out on top. But do not think for a second that I went down without a fight. I started the round bogey-par, and in hindsight, could have called it a day at that moment and been named the winner by unanimous decision. But then again, if I did that, I wouldn't have had the wonderful opportunity to slam 20-25 never-to-be-found-again golf balls into the various patches of woods and deep heather that this monster possesses. The day was not without its unique moments, however.
On one particularly daunting Par-4, with hazards blanketing each side of the fairway, I reached back for a little something extra. Careful takeaway, left arm straight, head down, all culminating with an explosive follow through as I sent the the ball rocketing on its path to stardom. A split-second later, I heard a funny little 'clunk'-type sound, while simultaneously feeling a light tap on the toe portion of my left shoe. I hoped for the best, but after glancing down, my unfortunate suspicions were confirmed. I had struck that little white Pinnacle with all my might...and it wound up hitting me on the foot. Total distance traveled: about eight inches. Amount of self-esteem and self-worth lost in the process: incalculable. There are certain "firsts" in sports that are associated with accomplishment and celebration. Babe Ruth, the first player to bash 60 homers in a season. Wilt Chamberlain, the first (and only) player to score 100 points in a game. Kathy Ireland, the first female All-American in Division-I football history. My becoming the first amateur golfer to smack a tee shot off of his own front foot might not be remembered along quite the same lines, but it will surely be a moment difficult to forget by the three other unfortunate souls that had to bare witness to the event in all its sad, unathletic glory.
There were plenty of other notable sports stories from the weekend. College football kicked off with a slew of powerhouse matchups. Pennant races in baseball shifted into fifth gear as the calendar trickles closer and closer to October. The USA men's soccer team took out El Salvador in a crucial World Cup qualifier. And there was plenty more action on the hardwood, in the ring, and on the track. But without question, the most enjoyable athlete to watch from the whole holiday weekend was none other than Melanie Oudin. The 17-year old from Georgia has taken the tennis world by storm in the last week and a half, and her matches have suddenly become "Must See TV." Yeah, I said it. It's not just the fact that she is an American, or that she is an underdog that continues to take out much higher ranked players in each successive round. It's the life and passion that she brings to the court, seemingly living and dying with each ferocious swing of the racket, that makes her matches such tremendous drama. Sometimes tennis players get a bad rap for being 'robotic' on the court. Roger Federer, the face of the game, was long criticized for his lack of emotion on the court, and though he has improved in that area, he is most definitely no Melanie Oudin. She follows up each forehand winner or break point with about eight huge Tiger Woods-esque fist pumps, often with a primal scream to go with it. Oudin has the crowd at Flushing Meadows practically eating out of her hand, and the unbelievable support she gets from them is the kind of thing that can drive a player all the way to a Grand Slam final.
Everybody loves rooting for the little guy, and in this tournament, Oudin fits the bill. She was ranked 221st a year ago, and now is taking out players like Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva without breaking a sweat (Ok, that last part was a lie...her in-game perspiration level makes Chauncey Billups look dry by comparison). She is all of 5'6 and does not possess the raw power or strength that some of the other top female players possess (Williams sisters, Dinara Safina). Instead, she relies on an unrivaled will to return every single ball, frustrating her opponents into countless mistakes while she goes on fist-pumping and bounding around the court with those quirky multi-colored sneakers with the word "Believe" etched along the bottom. Will Oudin continue her miraculous run and make it all the way to the game's grandest stage? Only time will tell. Next up is Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who has more victories this year than any other woman on tour. One thing is for sure, though. The refreshingly vibrant Oudin will leave everything she has on Arthur Ashe court, and anyone with access to a TV better find some time and settle in. Pennant races are great (or at least they were pre-wild card) and football weekends are about as good as it gets. But once in a while, an unforgettable run takes place in the world of tennis, and it only makes sense to give it your full attention. Lord knows I will.
People That Did Not See the Movie Flash of Genius
When the previews for this flick started playing last year, it looked like a clever, little, dramedy with the always pleasant Greg Kinnear leading the way. Homeboy managed to invent some type of "Intermittent Windshield Wiper," only to be screwed over by the major car companies that essentially ripped off his creation. Seemed like a unique (based on true) story with a quality cast. What could go wrong? Um, how about everything? I had the misfortune of being unable to fall asleep on a recent hot summer night, and Flash of Genius had just kicked off on Cinemax 12. Needless to say, after about 47 minutes, I was overwhelmingly depressed and wanted absolutely nothing to do with windshield wipers in the near future. I thought that despite the frustrating premise of Kinnear being stolen from, his character would still be a charming, likable, leading man. Boy, was I under the wrong impression. Instead, you wind up hating the auto companies for their dishonesty, but also despising Kinnear for his perpetually sour face and poor treatment of his wife and family. In the end (believe me, you aren't seeing it), this mook winds up getting large settlements from Ford and Chrysler, winning the case that he fought for so long. But in reality, nobody wins. Kinnear's character is a loser, the people that paid good money to see this in the theater are bigger losers, and people like me that actually stuck it out for the entirety at 3:45 AM are the biggest losers. You used to go into a Greg Kinnear movie with a pretty good confidence that you were in for a quality 110 minutes. But a lot has changed since You've Got Mail. And sadly, I am all too aware.
People That Don't Get Their Dreams Shattered Every Summer by the Cubs
There's a reason you don't hear fans in the off-season screaming, "Yes!! We signed Milton Bradley!!! The final piece to the puzzle!!!!" Ahh, the life of a Cubs fan. Who would have seen this disaster of a year coming? The Cubbies crushed the ball last season to the tune of an NL Central crown and a second consecutive playoff berth. Of course, they were ousted unceremoniously by the Dodgers, but still, things looked very promising heading into '09. But then the aforementioned Milton Bradley signing happened (when does picking this guy up ever help a team?), Kevin Gregg was brought on board to "close" games (if "closing" means throwing 86 mph meatball hoagies over the heart of the plate and hoping they don't get hit to Somalia), and just about anything that could go wrong did go wrong. Aramis Ramirez got hurt, Carlos Zambrano jumped the shark, Geovany Soto became the biggest Rookie of the Year bust in history, and another baseball season passed with the Cubs on the outside looking in. My Uncle Steve has always given me a hard time for "poisoning" my younger cousin Mayer into becoming a die-hard Cubs fan like myself. And it's hard to say the man doesn't have a point. But the time will come (probably next year) when the Cubs will finally break through, and then it will all be worth it. Worth all the Kosuke Fukudome strikeouts...all the Alfonso Soriano dropped fly balls...and all the daily heartbreak that comes with being a fan of a team entrenched in the longest championship drought in all of professional sports. Keep on believin', May...because anybody can root for superstars like Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Howard: but it takes a real fan to continually sing the praises of the Jeff Bakers and Sam Fulds of the world. We might be losers...but we're loyal losers, and that counts for something.
(Sidenote: the Cubbies have 26 ballgames left. Assuming they win all 26, which isn't all that improbable, it would put them at a dazzling 95-67, which should be plenty good for one of the four National League playoff spots. I'm just saying...let's keep our eyes open here. There might be quite a little story developing...)
Orthodox Training Methods
When fight night comes for the blockbuster showdown between Pretty Boy Floyd and Juan Manuel Marquez in a couple weeks, I will be rooting for the Mexican warrior Marquez. While I respect Mayweather's extreme domination of the sport over the last decade, I, like many others, have grown tired of his over-the-top cockiness and contrived "retirements" staged solely for a bigger cash grab down the road. As is always the case when a mega-fight approaches, HBO has kicked it into high gear with their "24/7" series profiling the combatants and taking the viewer inside the respective training camps. It's an excellent show that never fails to get you hyped up for the bout, but in this week's episode, there was a pretty disturbing sequence from the Marquez gym. Juan Manuel was finished with his workout for the day, and was seen heading toward the restroom to take care of a little business. In a strange turn of events, however, Marquez emerged from the bathroom holding a small glass with a yellowish substance filled up about halfway. I initially thought to myself, "Oh, they are just showing us that the fighters are being drug tested leading up to the fight. That makes sense." Next thing I know, Marquez is taking a seat and raising the glass upward. Ummm...what in the Sam Hill is going on here? Sure enough, Marquez completed the act and drank every last ounce of those fluids that had just come from his body no less than 15 seconds prior. Apparently a person's urine is loaded with many minerals and vitamins, so Marquez figures, semi-psychotically "Why let it all go to waste when I can just put it in a glass and put it right back into my system?" I understand you're preparing for the most challenging 12 rounds of your life, and that being in tip-top shape is of the utmost importance, but isn't there some kind of line to be drawn here? Sure, we were all mortified a few years back when we found out Moises Alou routinely urinated on his hands to try and prevent blisters, but at least the man wasn't drinking the stuff like it was Crystal Lite Lemonade. I was firmly in the Juan Manuel Marquez camp heading into his epic battle with Money Mayweather on September 19th. Now? I could not care less if he wins. I just want the man to stop freaking me out...
Not mentioned, but also winners from the weekend. The Tigers...they never lose, and there have been recent reports from unnamed sources claiming that Aubrey Huff might actually still have an active pulse. Michigan Wolverines...yes, we understand that the fast quarterback does not tie his shoes. Can we put that one to bed for a while? Michigan State Spartans...a big W over Montana State that had all the electricity of an NFL pre-season game. The Shock...they also never lose, and it might be time for you to call the Palace to reserve your block of playoff tickets (kidding...but only a little).
Drop your own winner from the weekend in the comments section below, or reach the High Socks Legend by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org